Have You Had The “Talk” With Your Family Members?

If you are a parent, you may be thinking of the “talk” you had with your children when they were pre-teens, but, that is not what I am referring to. This “talk” is with your family members about your “later in life” thoughts.

Do your family members know your preferences about critical life support?  Funeral details?  Where to find your important documents?  Your assets?  Who you wish to have notified in the event of illness or death? Computer passwords and log in?  Your safe deposit box location? Your list of medications? Health history?

You may have shared this information at some point with your family, but situations change.  Perhaps you have moved — do they know where you have placed your documentation?  Perhaps you have named new parties to act on your behalf.  Have you discussed your affairs with them?

If you use a computer, do you have log-in information and passwords written someplace to enable them to access your “electronic” assets?

While knowing the whereabouts of your financial information and Estate documentation, your last wishes are some of the most important details to share with your loved ones.  Do your loved ones know your wishes?

With regard to Health Care Directives, do not assume your loved ones are of the same opinion as yours, or each other.  If you don’t have your documents in order, it can be difficult for your loved ones to make a decision.  You should carefully consider the person you are naming as your agent to make health-care decisions when you are unable to make them for yourself.  Have a heart-to-heart talk with this person to feel comfortable in knowing they will abide by your wishes and that they share the same thoughts as you.

This is a difficult conversation to have, but there are advantages of doing so — to name a few:  your wishes are known, you have named someone to make decisions on your behalf thus hopefully avoiding angst and tension among your loved ones, and not the least of all, avoiding medical personnel making decisions which may be contrary to your wishes, some decisions that when made and implemented are not easily undone.

In addition to health care issues, share with your family your wishes for your funeral — do you have arrangements made, what your views are as to burial versus cremation, cemetery location, religious or memorial services.

Many times, as a part of your Estate planning, attorneys will draw up a separate document to address these issues of post-mortem wishes.  The document is separate from your Will, but provides information and your preferences to your loved ones.

If you are a parent, this “talk” may be more difficult than the “talk” with your children years ago, but is perhaps more vital than the earlier one.  Don’t put it off.  Children – encourage this dialogue with your parents – some day you will be glad you did.

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Kay Sowa

About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent as well as a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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